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Notes: Wings will look to Mantha-Larkin-Frk line to produce

Mantha and Frk excited for their first opening night with Wings

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - The Red Wings have a pretty good idea of what they can expect from the Tomas Tatar-Henrik Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist line this season.

But how the line of Anthony Mantha-Dylan Larkin-Martin Frk does could well determine the team's fate, especially offensively.

That group was put together early in the preseason and played most of four games as a unit, combining for five goals and seven assists.

"I think we have everything in the line," Frk said after the team practiced at the BELFOR Training Center Tuesday. "We have Mo, he is a big boy, you know. He can stay in front of the net and do the dirty work. Larks is very fast. He's the center and obviously the center has to be the smartest player on the ice, so I think he is doing that. He's got really good speed and a very good shot.

"For me, I've just got to go find an open spot in the zone and try to score every time I get the chance. I think it's getting better every day. We practice, we've played a lot of games together. I feel there is a lot of chemistry and I am really excited for the first game and very excited for how we will do."

Larkin agreed that the three have quickly bonded on the ice.

"I think it's been pretty natural, right from the first game that they put us together in Boston," Larkin said. "In the third period we immediately started clicking as three. To be honest with you, it started with Frky and his hustle, kind of got Mo and I going. I think the next game we played at home against Boston - scored a couple goals as a line and then I think we just kept rolling. I think if you look at the last game against Toronto, we didn't produce in terms of points but I thought we were pretty good defensively and each of us had pretty good chances where it could have went in. So I think the chemistry's been pretty natural.

"I personally enjoy playing with those two guys. I feel like it's hard, they both have such good shots that when you see them, when you get the puck, you're immediately trying to look for them instead of thinking shot yourself. I think I still could shoot a little bit. But the more those guys find the pucks and get it to me, I'm really going to try and look at kicking it wide and letting them find each other and use their shots."

Mantha said he knows his role when he plays with those two.

"Keep my feet moving," Mantha said. "(Larkin's) going to be wheeling around and you know it. Frky is just going to be there every time for that one timer. That's not a hard guy to play with. We just need to move our feet, control the puck a little bit more and maybe be in closer support to each other, and then things should go well."

As a rookie, Larkin played with Zetterberg as his center. He played center some last season, including the last 20-plus games, but was on the wing at other times.

He said he has a little bit of a different mindset these days, to be more of a playmaking center.

"I think as a centerman, that's your goal, you want to have players that want to play with you and you want to have the puck a ton and look at all the elite first-line centers that make players on their line better," Larkin said. "I got a big chance playing with those two guys and I think both of them, not saying this because of me, but with their skill set alone, they could be 20-30 goal scorers in this league and that's the kind of players I'm playing with. I look at myself and if they're not producing, it's on me and I've got to get them the puck and take care of our own zone and as a line, create offense on our own."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill said the line did a good job during the preseason but he would continue to evaluate that line as they move forward.

"What Frky brings to that line is real forecheck pressure, Frky is a hard-forechecking player," Blashill said. "He's not always noted for that, but he is. So, I think it's an element that line needs, so I think it can be a real good line but let's keep watching."

FIRST OPENING NIGHT FOR MANTHA, FRK: Mantha was not with the team for the beginning of last season and Martin Frk was with the Carolina Hurricanes after being claimed on waivers.

So Thursday night will be particularly meaningful to those two.

"It's going to be unreal," Mantha said. "I mean, new rink, we can't ask for better. I just hope it's going to be a great first night."

Frk couldn't keep the smile off his face when he was asked about it.

"I'm definitely very excited," Frk said. "It was always my dream when the Red Wings drafted me quite a lot of years ago no. It was always my dream. I enjoyed with Carolina to play the first game but this will be very special because this is the team who drafted me. I spent a lot of years here in Grand Rapids and now I have a chance to be here and put the jersey on. I'm real excited. I can't wait."

Little Caesars Arena's tight bowl was inspired by the one at Montreal's Bell Centre.

Mantha's family has seen many games there and will be at Little Caesars Arena for Mantha's first opening night with the Wings.

"They are actually on their way," said Mantha, who was expecting them by dinnertime. "Grandpa, Grandma, father, mom and then my sister's coming, too, I think tomorrow with her boyfriend. It's going to be fun. Right away after that we're going to Ottawa, so I will have a lot of family there, too."

Frk's family won't be able to come from the Czech Republic but he will have some people in the stands to see him for his first opening night at Little Caesars Arena.

"I think maybe my billet family from back when I was playing in junior. She says she will come," Frk said. "That will be very nice to see her again. And my girlfriend will be here."

KRONWALL COULD PLAY OPENER: Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall did not play in the final exhibition game in Toronto because of a sore groin.

Kronwall skated Tuesday with Mike Kadar, strength and conditioning coach, but that doesn't mean he definitely is out for the home opener Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.

"He still has the opportunity (Wednesday)," Blashill said. "We'll make a decision on Nik Kronwall tomorrow after practice. I'm hoping he practices (Wednesday). I think that's where his mindset is right now. Let's see where he feels. He had a good skate but he did it on his own. The reason we had him skate on his own is we had a better chance of controlling it on his own than when he gets in with all our players. He has a hard time holding himself back a little bit. We wanted to make sure we took the right steps."

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